Talk about a lonely experience.
However, today’s technology makes it possible to connect with other fighters and survivors, no matter what kind of cancer you have, or how old you are. And that can make a big difference in your recovery. I’ve found a huge community of cancer fighters and survivors through Twitter and Facebook. It’s been such a blessing.
Studies have shown that support groups help cancer patients better navigate the short- and long-term impacts of their disease, and help to improve their quality of life through meaningful interactions, shared experiences, and laughter. However, some cancer patients don’t have access to these groups, or others may just feel more comfortable sharing in a more private setting.
Enter social media websites like Facebook and Twitter. These sites have exploded in the last few years as ways for people to connect with each other all over the world, but more than that, they have proven to be very important in helping people to deal with health issues. According to Manhattan Research’s Cybercitizen Health study, more than 60 percent of cancer patients are eHealth consumers, going online for health information-and to interact with others who have the disease.
“Cancer patients are also more avid users of health-related social media than age would predict,” says the Manhattan Research website. “This condition group tends to be more comfortable with sharing information and resources than other types of patients.”
Even more meaningful to cancer patients are sites like Planet Cancer and Cancer Compass, where fighters and survivors can connect with one another and discuss various aspects of the disease. There’s nothing like having someone else in the same situation as you to boost your spirits and give you hope. “Prior to 2000,” says Heidi Adams, founder of Planet Cancer, “there really wasn’t any way for this fragmented patient population to find each other and connect. Planet Cancer was created as an online home to connect patients.”
These sites give you the option to read comments from others, or choose to interact by submitting comments of your own. You can also send private messages or join a group, even share photos and videos. It’s like suddenly there are people out there who understand what you’re going through, and are interested in what you have to say.
“The opportunity to share resources, advice, and encouragement is something that can be incredibly empowering for a cancer patient,” Adams says.
Healthcare providers are also taking advantage of this new way to reach out to patients. In just two years, for example, the American Cancer Society has developed followings of more than 16,000 people on Twitter, and 170,000 on Facebook. These sites provide invaluable information about medical conditions and treatments, and are often where people go first before talking to their doctor.
“Cancer is a difficult and emotional disease to navigate,” says Monique Levy, Senior Director of Research at Manhattan Research, “leading patients to turn to their physicians, caregivers, and, now more than ever, the Internet for support and information….[S]ocial media will continue to play an important role in cancer care.”
Have you used social media sites to connect with other cancer fighters and survivors? Please share your recommendations.
Photo courtesy Eldercare2008 via Flickr.com.